RI ACLU Asks State Supreme Court to Order a Manual Recount in Tobon-San Bento Election Dispute

Posted: Oct, 01, 2012

In a petition filed today in the state Supreme Court, RI ACLU volunteer attorney Armando Batastini has asked the Court to order the state Board of Elections to conduct a manual recount of all precinct, mail and provisional ballots cast in the Representative District 58 Democratic Primary. The petition is on behalf of candidate Carlos Tobon, whose purported one-vote loss to incumbent William San Bento has been mired in controversy and confusion since election night. The ACLU’s petition also asks for an audit of all mail and provisional ballots in that election to determine the qualification of each voter submitting those ballots.

In seeking judicial intervention, the petition notes:

“To date, the count from election night and three separate recounts by the Rhode Island Board of Elections (“BOE”) have generated four different results – despite using the same electronic ballot reader for tabulation of mail ballots. . .

“There was also at least one ballot cast at the Nathaniel Greene polling place for which there is not a corresponding ballot application, so that there is no way to ascertain whether a legitimately registered voter cast that ballot or not. Moreover, disquieting questions have arisen regarding the manner with which certain mail ballots have been treated that post-date the BOE recounts and the administrative hearing regarding those recounts.

“Given these facts, which are undisputed, no one can plausibly maintain any confidence in the accuracy of the official results of this Primary.”

The petition seeking the Supreme Court’s intervention concludes: “Allowing the results of an election to turn on the vagaries of imprecise electronic ballot readers and an unknown voter is entirely antithetical to constitutional norms requiring that each legitimate vote count.” In seeking an order for a manual recount of the ballots, the petition notes that the Supreme Court has previously authorized such recounts in other contested elections. It is unknown how quickly the Court will rule on the ACLU’s request.